The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 14 No. 29 - May 14, 2014


Sabine: The search continues
Carol Whitmore


One of the two Sarasota Sheriff’s Office cadaver
dogs sniffs around a tree in the lot east of
Galati Marine to see if the body of Sabine Musil
Buehler is buried there.

ANNA MARIA – Authorities were set to bring in cadaver dogs, an earth mover and prisoners with shovels Tuesday and Wednesday to try and find the remains of an Island woman who disappeared mysteriously nearly six years ago.

Sabine Musil-Buehler was last seen in public at a Halloween party at Haley’s Motel on Oct. 31, 2008.

Tuesday morning, investigators from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office said they would use dogs, a road crew and a Bobcat to search a remote area east of Galati Marine on South Bay Boulevard. The efforts began about 9 a.m., with the Bobcat being used to clear away brush and debris. The dogs were scheduled to be brought in after that to try and more precisely pinpoint hot spots located in a search of the area on May 7. Authorities said efforts were scheduled to continue the rest of the day and into Wednesday, with digging to start once the land was cleared and the dogs’ second search was concluded.

As of press time Tuesday, the excavation had just begun.

“This search is the result of considerable investigation,” said Reserve Major Dwight Townsend, of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and Manatee County Search and Rescue. “We had several leads after rereading the case.”

Tuesday’s search wasn’t the first time deputies have combed parts of the Island. They searched the beaches along Gulf Boulevard in Anna Maria in early Dec. 2009 using ground-penetrating radar, then returned in April 2010 and again in August of that year with earth-movers, after Musil-Buehler’s cell phone and purse were found by passersby in a wooded area next to Gulf Front Park.

Detective John Kenney, who was in charge of the sheriff’s patrol in the city of Anna Maria when Musil-Buehler disappeared, has been on the team trying to solve the mystery. He said they feel they have enough evidence from blood samples in Musil-Buehler’s car and the apartment she shared with her boyfriend, William Cumber, to get a conviction. Cumber is charged with second-degree murder in connection with the disappearance and awaits trial in Bradenton.

Police questioned Cumber extensively after Musil-Buehler vanished. He had met her while he was in prison serving time for burning down an ex-girlfriend’s house. He was out on probation when Musil-Buehler disappeared. He subsequently was caught in another county without permission from his probation officer and is now serving a 13-year term for violating terms of that probation. If he is convicted of second-degree murder, he could get life in prison.

Kenney is still searching for clues to Musil-Buehler’s disappearance.

“We are totally open to anyone who has any information,” he said. “If you can assist, please call me at 747-3011, extension 2216.”


Best tourism season ever predicted for AMI
Carol Whitmore

Liz Andricks, of A Paradise Realty, received a
2014 Tourism Partner Award from the
Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors
Bureau at last week’s Tourism Week luncheon.


BRADENTON – When the numbers are in for this year’s high tourist season, which ended with Easter, they will prove perceptions that it was the best in the history of Anna Maria Island, according to Mary Ann Brockman, of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce.

Brockman and other tourism officials and industry members gathered last week to celebrate Tourism Week at the Manatee Performing Arts Center, hosted by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

There was much to celebrate, with 2.8 million visitors to Manatee County in 2013, up 1.5 percent from 2012, a 2013 countywide occupancy rate of 67.5 percent, up 2.9 percent from 2012, and average 2013 room rates of $141 a night, up 3.7 percent from 2012.

Numbers are up so far this year too, with January resort tax collections up 15 percent from last year and February collections up 11 percent; statistics for the height of the season, March, are not yet available from the Manatee County Tax Collector, but are expected to break records.

Three members of the tourism industry were recognized by the CVB last Wednesday for contributing to the success.


Liz Andricks, of A Paradise Realty, received a 2014 Tourism Partner Award for teaching competitors and CVB officials how to work with tour operators. Bruce Langston, of Lakewood Ranch, was recognized for philanthropy for donating funds to enable schoolchildren to see the exhibit of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions at the Bradenton Municipal Auditorium. The Tourism Ambassador Award went to Cihan Cobanoglu, dean of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee College of Hospitality and Technology Leadership, for recruiting hospitality students from Peru and France, and Rick Fawley, of Fawley-Bryant Architects in Bradenton and designer of McKechnie Field, won the Tourism Outreach Award.

CVB Director Elliott Falcione credited the state’s tourism agency, Visit Florida, and its growing budget, for much of the increase, along with the destination itself.

Debbie Meihls, manager of the CVB, also gave credit to an improved destination website, a destination guide produced by Time Inc. in partnership with Southern Living magazine and mini-guides and e-newsletters emphasizing particular areas of interest, such as arts, ecotourism, agritourism, weddings and sports tourism.

New marketing efforts, such as the Bradenton Arts Movieville Film Festival, from May 8-18, will be directed to film tourism, the theme of the event, which featured Oscar award-style red carpets and pretend paparazzi.

A video detailed the history of filming in the area, including films "On an Island With You," "Great Expectations," "Out of Time" and "Palmetto," a music video by Shinedown and several still advertisements.

Other future marketing efforts will be concentrated on directing visitors to Lakewood Ranch, Palmetto and Bradenton, Falcione said.


Marketing efforts must continue to increase in order for the area to weather recessions that have struck in every decade since the 1940s, Falcione said, adding that tourism increases jobs, home values and sales tax receipts and lowers property taxes, allowing Florida to remain a no-income-tax state.

“We don’t want one month of a downturn,” he said. “When we think we have enough, we’ve got to stay on the pedal.”

The use of resort tax funds that fuel local marketing efforts have been debated over the past year, with the Manatee County Commission allocating $1 million to Bradenton Beach for rebuilding the Bridge Street Pier. Falcione requested that future resort tax expenditures be evaluated using a list of several criteria.

The debate is healthy, he said, adding, “It helps us help residents understand why it makes sense when traffic is a little more or a lot more.”

Manatee County’s resort tax receipts in the 2012-13 fiscal year were $8.9 million.

Tourism industry officials and members in Sarasota County are fighting a proposal to use resort tax funds in excess of $15 million a year on capital improvements.

Anna Maria goes it alone on parking

ANNA MARIA – While Holmes Beach City Commissioner David Zaccagnino works on a traffic plan for all three cities, which includes paid parking, at least one city commissioner wants to continue to explore its option on its own.

During a special work session on Wednesday, May 7, Commissioner Dale Woodland said commissioners were given a copy of Zaccagnino’s plan and they should stop working on their own plan and talk about it at the next Barrier Island Elected Officials meeting. That meeting is set for May 21, at 2 p.m. at Anna Maria City Hall.

“We need to make provisions for people to go from one city to another without having to pay for parking again,” said Commissioner Carol Carter.

“I don’t think a join effort will ever get done,” said Commission Chair Chuck Webb, adding that all they have to do is to put in their ordinance that they will honor parking passes from other cities.

Webb said he doesn’t like Zaccagnino’s fee structure.

“The mayors have been discussing this,” said Mayor SueLynn. “Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon said if we do something, it will force the other two cities to do something, but I agree we should continue to work on our own.”

“I think we need to sell daily, weekly, monthly and annual passes,” Webb said, adding he would like Finance Director and City Clerk Diane Percycoe to gather statistics about road maintenance, trash collection and other expenses that have gone up with the increase in tourists and day visitors.

Webb said the city would not make residents who are homesteaded pay to park. He wants stickers that show where they live and for non-residents to show they paid. He said he prefers stickers because hang tags could be easily counterfeited.

Commissioners discussed what they wanted, but they were not ready to formalize anything yet. They plan to continue the discussion at a future meeting.

At the meeting, Carter talked about the emergency meeting held the week before to try to extend the delay in enforcing the new sign code restriction on A-frame, or sandwich signs.

“I didn’t think it was an emergency,” she said. “I think emergency meetings are getting out of hand.”

Woodland, who called for the meeting, said the city was to set up a special exception process for the business owners, who feel they need the signs, but the city did not meet its expectations, and he thought an extension of the delay was in order.

At that emergency meeting, Mayor SueLynn said they would not enforce the new ordinance until the special exception process was in place.

Commissioner Doug Copeland said he agrees they didn’t need the emergency meeting, and Webb said it was discourteous to call the emergency meeting in the middle of the day, since he works and could not attend.

In other action, the commission passed a resolution correcting a scrivener’s error from a 1953 resolution that vacated part of Gulf Boulevard, the one-block long street that runs next to the beach.

They also approved a replat of the property at Banyan Tree Estates.

Narcissus slated for summer ceremony


A diver documents the measurements of the drive
shaft of the U.S.S. Narcissus off Egmont Key, which
is scheduled to become an underwater preserve this summer.

EGMONT KEY – The 1866 wreck of the steamer U.S.S. Narcissus is expected to become Florida’s 12th Underwater Archaeological Preserve in September, organizers announced last week.

Plans are being finalized to make a plaque to sink at the site and organize a shipboard dedication ceremony with the governor, said Katherine Chakour, of the Florida Aquarium, which nominated the ship for the preserve program with South Eastern Archaeological Services.

The Narcissus will join the Regina, a sugar barge that sank off Bradenton Beach in 1940, as one of 12 shipwrecks designated as preserves by the Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources Bureau of Archaeological Research.

In January 1866, the Narcissus was on her way to New York to be decommissioned from Civil War service when a storm struck off St. Petersburg. She ran aground on a sandbar and her boiler exploded, killing the crew, according to state records.

Pieces of the 82-foot-long wreck, home to varied marine life, lie in 15 feet of water on a sand bottom about two miles northwest of Egmont Key.

The submerged tomb served in the Civil War battle of Mobile Bay in 1864, during which Union Admiral David G. Farragut pronounced his infamous quote, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” Torpedo was the name for mine at that time.

Later that year, Narcissus struck a torpedo during a storm and sank with no casualties. She was raised and taken for repairs to Pensacola, from which she embarked on her final, fatal voyage.

The wreck, owned by the U.S. Navy, will be promoted by the state as a tourist attraction for divers.

Access questioned

Access to wrecks owned by the U.S. Navy could be compromised by proposed revisions to the Sunken Military Craft Act of 2004, said attorney Charles George, of the South Carolina-based George Law Firm, who said he plans to petition a court for a temporary restraining order of the revisions to the federal regulation.

The act provides for the protection of sunken U.S. military ships and aircraft worldwide, protection for the graves of lost military personnel and protection of sensitive archaeological artifacts and historical information, among other provisions.

In part, the proposed revisions “institute a permitting program that authorizes controlled access to disturb these historic properties,” which number more than 17,000 worldwide, according to the Federal Register.

The proposed revisions, criticized by treasure hunters and salvagers, could make Navy vessels off limits to divers, he said, including at Truk Lagoon in the Pacific Ocean, known as the world’s largest ship graveyard.

They also could complicate an already-burdensome permit process, George said, citing the case of diver Gary Gentile, who, according to federal records, filed 11 applications, two administrative appeals and a federal lawsuit before getting a permit to dive and photograph the Civil War vessel U.S.S. Monitor off the coast of North Carolina in 1989.

“Small dive shops will be affected. Tourism will be affected. Sunken treasures will remain forever lost,” George said. “We’re asking for Congress to make the rules, not Navy bureaucrats.”

City close to selecting pier contractor

BRADENTON BEACH – The Sarasota-based Duncan Seawall, Dock & Boat Lift firm emerged from last week’s Pier Team meeting as the leading candidate to win the lucrative city pier reconstruction contract, but a final recommendation has not yet been made.

The five bids unsealed last month ranged from $1.2 to $1.8 million. Miami-based PAC Comm Inc. submitted the lowest big, at $1,202,140. Duncan’s bid was slightly higher at $1,309,452.

Duncan was the only firm to submit a second bid for additional electrical work and the installation of the pier lighting the city will purchase directly from Beacon Lighting at an estimated cost of $42,351.

Although Duncan was not the lowest bidder, previous dealings with the city appear to be working in the company’s favor.

Public Works Director and Pier Team member Tom Woodard expressed support for Duncan.

“Duncan is the only one I’m familiar with. I have a professional relationship with Duncan. They did the floating dock, four seawall repairs and the dinghy dock,” he said.

“I understand they’re not the lowest price, but in my experience with them they’re well worth it, and I’m always leary of the big companies from out of town. My own experience is with Duncan and that’s where my confidence lies,” Woodard concluded.

The Pier Team is chaired by Police Chief Sam Speciale, who agreed with Woodard that price alone should not be the determining factor.

“We’re not just going to grab the lowest bid. Cities have a tendency to take the lowest bid, but I want to make sure this committee’s comfortable in their understanding that we don’t have to do that, and we shouldn’t do that,” Speciale said.

Because there were some unanswered questions regarding job specifications that were not included in some bids, it was agreed that Building Official and Pier Team member Steve Gilbert and ZNS Engineering representative Karen Wilson would offer to conduct a final series of contractor interviews before ZNS recommends a contractor.

Wilson said bids received from PAC Comm and Shoreline Foundation Inc. did not include the plastic coating that is to be applied to a portion of the pier pilings in order to ensure greater durability. Concerns were also raised about the varying amounts budgeted for the demolition and removal of the existing pier structure.

Gilbert and Wilson were not sure how many, if any, of the firms would be interested in clarifying their bids, but said they would be given until Wednesday to do so.

Wilson pledged that ZNS would make its recommendation to the Pier Team no later than Wednesday afternoon, so the Pier Team’s final recommendation can be included on the agenda for the Thursday, May 22, city commission meeting.

Earlier this year, ZNS was contracted by the city to prepare the original request for proposal and bid proposal documents and to oversee the bid process.

Board to proceed with Grassy Point plan


Benches and a garbage can enclosure have been
added to the 72nd Street beach access. City Commissioner
Marvin Grossman, who is in charge of the project, said he
plans to do the 65th Street beach access next.



HOLMES BEACH – Beautification board members approved a plan for improvements to Grassy Point outlined by member Jerry West last week.

West said his plan is four-part and includes:

• Placing signs at 30th Street and Avenue C to direct people to Grassy Point;
• Moving the proposed boardwalk off of East Bay Drive to the south nearer Mike Norman’s parking lot;
• Extending the upland pathway to the mangrove area;
• Exploring the possibility of putting a freshwater pond in the upland area.

West made the motion to get a permit and proceed with the plan, and it was approved unanimously. The plan must be approved by city commissioners.

West said Human Services Analyst Mary Buonagura is seeking grant funding for the project.

City Commissioner Marvin Grossman suggested that as part of their educational plans, which include a series of seminars starting next fall, that members hold an Earth Day celebration. He said they could have classes and booths sponsored by companies offering solar and other green technology, plants and the like in the city hall field.

Members said they would need someone to coordinate the event. Chair Melissa Snyder said they could seek help from the Manatee County Extension Service and the Audubon Society.

Members approved plantings at 63rd Street and Marina Drive, which include sea oxide daisy, green buttonwood, pink muhly grass, firecracker plant, salt meadow cord grass and seaside goldenrod.

They affirmed their approval of plantings for the public beach triangle, which will include adding seven coontie palms to the existing sago palms and grasses.

In other business members:

• Said they would ask the public works department to help them locate a bat house in Grassy Point;

• Learned that Joan Bowling, of Shady Lady, has offered to adopt the pocket park at 6807 Homes Boulevard;

• Learned that three benches and a garbage can enclosure have been added to the 72nd Street beach access.

Center adopts animal policy

ANNA MARIA – The Island Community Center board of directors recently approved an animal policy that would allow animals at events as well as pets in the building.

At the April board meeting, Executive Director Dawn Stiles explained that the Center had no policy regarding animals even though it has had elephants, dogs and ponies at various events and classes. She said it also would allow employees to bring pets to work.

Treasurer Stewart Moon asked about liability, and Stiles said she checked with the insurance company, and there is no problem.

Chair Scott Rudacille said bringing pets to work is a growing trend across the country.

Board member Erin Heckler said having animals at events is different from having pets in the building and asked, “What about people with children and people who fear animals? They would not expect to see a dog here. Who determines what a well-behaved animal is?”

Rudacille said pets would not be allowed outside the building and he is “open to giving it a try.”

Moon said it is a management issue not a board issue.

Pet rules

According to the policy, pets must be well behaved, safe around strangers, and not show any aggressive traits. They must have water and toys to keep them occupied. In addition:

• Pets must be kept on a leash or contained in an office or specific area.
• Pets must be housebroken.
• Pets must be generally calm and quiet.
• Owners must clean up after their pets.
• Pets must be groomed, treated with flea/tick preventative and up to date on vaccinations.

Pets will not be allowed in the café, restrooms, children’s classrooms and outdoor playing fields. Employees wishing to bring their pets to work must fill out an application to be approved by the executive director or board chair.

Owners who bring pets to participate in a class, such as dog obedience, must bring them in a crate or on a leash and only take them to the classroom area.

Group agrees on changes to annual artsHop event

ANNA MARIA – Members of Cultural Connections agreed with the executive committee recommendation to pare down the number of events offered at their annual artsHOP in November.

They said it could include the Friday night gallery walk, a special play at the Island Playhouse on Friday and Saturday nights and the Symphony in the Sand on Sunday. Jeanie Pickwick of AMICO, said county officials have talked about adding an event on Friday night.

Mike Coleman, of Pine Avenue Restoration, told the group about plans to present the second chalk festival in Anna Maria in January 2015. He said he had requested a two-day event, the same as last year, but city commissioners would only allow a one-day event.

“They did not understand the ancillary benefits,” he noted, adding that organizers gave the $3,000 proceeds to Island non-profits groups, and he was hoping the financial impact would be greater next year.

Joan Voyles pointed out that it could be difficult to create the complex chalk drawings in one day.

“We’ll see if it can be done,” Coleman replied. “If it can’t be done to a standard, there’s no point in doing it.”

Voyles asked if he could appeal the city commission’s decision. He said the issue is city officials questioning what type of impact these types of events have on the city and whether they should be limited.

“Everybody said what a successful event it was, not a whisper of trouble,” he explained. “But there’s a general sense of too much, too many, too often. That’s what we’re dealing with.”

Members discussed a new method of publicity, such as a brochure with a calendar of events, rather than the rack card they have been using for several years. They agreed to allow the executive committee to get bids on designs.

Volunteer committee members reported that they have discussed holding a volunteer fair and a volunteer recognition event. They recommended that member groups put their profiles on the United Way volunteer website,, to register their need for volunteers.

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